“Best friends are hard to keep… alive.”
A.k.a. The Hazing
Director/Writer: Rolfe Kanefsky / Cast: Tiffany Shepis, Nectar Rose, Parry Shen, Brad Dourif, Jeremy Maxwell, Philip Andrew, David Tom, Charmaine DeGrate.
Body Count: 14
Laughter Lines: “You don’t understand, man! The book is evil!” / “And it will be punished – we’ll all take turns spanking it later, OK?”
On the surface, Dead Scared looks like just another cheap video flick that appeared in the post-Scream binge. So it comes as a pleasant surprise that the film manages to transcend its budgetary constrictions with a witty writing and sharp, sassy dialogue.
The fact that it doesn’t stick to the slasher rules like flypaper is also a plus, as it serves up a cut n’ shut plot reminiscent of both The Evil Dead and Hell Night: Five college pledges embark on a scavenger hunt set for them by senior members of their respective sorority/fraternity houses, which is to end with a night spent at an abandoned house where a murder occurred a zillion years earlier.
Too bad that two of them end up accidentally killing a creepy professor (Dourif) after they discover he’s into some dark rituals. Once gathered at the house, it transpired that he’s not so dead after all and his spirit possesses one of the pledges and sends them on a quest of gory carnage, with people being turned into mannequins or biting their own tongues off.
As the numbers dwindle, the final trio of teens are left to establish re-equilibrium. In a similar way to the previous year’s Detour (which also featured Shepis in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo), it’s the characters who initially appeared least likely to survive who emerge victorious, with Rose as a man-eater who pretends to be a bimbo to get the guy she wants where she wants him.
Although short on fresh ideas for this type of venture, creator Kanefsky inks some great moments and exchanges and the plucky cast turn in surprisingly good performances, with Dourif’s comic charm elevating his comparatively minimal screentime to be the most memorable.
Blurbs-of-interest: Dourif voiced Chucky in all six Child’s Play outings, and was also in Trauma, Urban Legend, Chain Letter, and both of Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-do’s; Parry Shen was in all three Hatchet movies; Tiffany Shepis was also in Basement Jack, Bloody Murder 2, Home Sick, and Scarecrow; David Tom was in Stepfather III.
“They’re dying for her new look.”
Directors/Writers: Jon Hoffman & Dave Rock / Cast: Julian Berlin, Jonny Mack, Charity Shea, Hannah Leigh, David Austin, George Williams, Maxine Bahns, Pia Scott.
Body Count: 9
Laughter Lines: “We have a better chance if we split up.”
The declaration that “there’s a story about these woods…” sets into motion a series of events that dooms a family camping trip into the wilderness.
According to the park ranger who utters the line – and corresponding flashbacks – a backwoods hick who beat his wife regularly, caught her with a deformed trapper and, after knifing him, became enraged when wifey announced she was pregnant and later gave birth to a girl with the same skin condition. Years of barely suppressed rage later, he cut off the child’s face before burning down his house. Now, twenty years later, the child prowls the forest slicing the faces off pretty girls to mask her own.
Although Scarred explores no new territory, the first two thirds of the film are well enough aced by a game cast and the internal troubles of their secular family unit – they’re being forced to bond with dad’s new trophy wife – are explored thoughtfully.
When the feral killer turns up, things unfold in a slightly different manner than usual, with the freshly de-faced victims still alive and wandering deliriously around the forest. The third act sees formerly bitchy daughter Kim take the reigns of heroine and eventually save the day, albeit via a laughable confrontation with the killer, which goes down the Amy Steel route of posing as Mom to fool the nutter.
T&A is off the menu and many of the killings occur off screen, although the scene where we witness just how a face is ripped off a shrieking victim is pretty intense. Ultimately another rent-a-psycho-with-a-particular-penchant video film, but ignore the (unintentional?) comedy and it’s a very watchable one at any rate.
Blurbs-of-interest: David Austin and Charity Shea were also in The Pumpkin Karver.
“Now it’s open season for murder.”
A.k.a. Multiple Listings (!?)
Director/Writer: Jag Mundhra / Writer: David Mickey Evans / Cast: Joseph Bottoms, Adrienne Barbeau, Barry Hope, Robert Milano, Rudy Ramos, Darwyn Swalve, Page Moseley, Lee Moore.
Body Count: 9
“See the thriller of the year on home video.” Right.
A pretty good opening is not enough to salvage this badly scripted and cut together crap with a dog-food-eating killer murdering real estate ‘bitches’ and their clients around Los Angeles. Why? You wouldn’t believe how desperate the motive turns out to be.
Bottoms is a critically-maligned radio psychologist who receives calls from an opinionated aggressor who thinks the victims deserved all they got. His girlfriend – Adrienne Barbeau, why is she in this?? – the owner of the city’s most successful real estate agency. Gasp.
There’s dumb behaviour a-plenty, like a pair of early victims cowering in the corner of a bathroom that has a visible escape route, and there’s s stupid subplot about a rival firm trying to kill Adrienne’s business. If this is supposed to serve as a red herring then it fails even to get off the blocks.
It’s as if the writers rearranged their blind twists as they went along. The killer, whose face is kept off screen until the last few minutes, turns out to be who everyone in the cast thought it was, obliterating any trace of mystery they’d tried to construct.
There’s also the needless misogynistic vein: Most of the fatalities are women but the killer has no reason for targeting a specific gender, leaving a sense of “women shouldn’t have successful careers” emanating from it.
A rotten score irritates throughout like some cheesy soap opera and the end stoops to ripping off When a Stranger Calls without any shame. This flick comes from a bad neighbourhood and should stay there festering.